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The Who's John Entwistle dead

The 'quiet Who member' revolutionized rock bass playing

Entwistle was on medication for a heart condition
Entwistle was on medication for a heart condition  


(CNN) -- In "Rock Dreams," writer Nik Cohn and artist Guy Peellaert's slightly surreal history of rock 'n' roll, the early Who are summarized by means of a simple, fictional ledger.

On the credit side are the band's gigs for the week, a couple hundred pounds for concerts at the Marquee Club and other venues in and around London. On the debit side are several hundred pounds of expenses for new guitars, microphones and drum kits, new clothes for guitarist Pete Townshend, repairs to vocalist Roger Daltrey's car, and nightlife money for drummer Keith Moon.

And, at the bottom, is a debit for 1 pound, 17 shillings, 6 pence for bassist John Entwistle's luncheon vouchers.

That was Entwistle: an oasis of personal, working-class quietude among the band's chaotic sturm und drang.

Entwistle, 57, known as "Ox" or "Thunderfingers," died at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Thursday, after suffering an apparent heart attack.

His death came just one day before the group was set to begin a North American tour. An autopsy is due to be held Friday to determine the cause of death.

CNN NewsPass VIDEO
CNN's Tim Lister looks back on the career of bassist John Entwistle of The Who (June 28)

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Fans at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel Casino pay their respects (June 27)

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"My Generation"
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"My Wife"
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"Boris the Spider"
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The group now has just two of its four original members -- Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. Moon died in 1978 of a drug overdose.

Townshend and Daltrey posted a tribute to Entwistle on Townshend's Web site Friday.

"The Ox has left the building -- we've lost another great friend," it read. "Thanks for your support and love. Pete and Roger."

Entwistle was on medication for a heart condition, according to Steve Luongo, a member of The John Entwistle Band.

The Who's scheduled concert at the Hard Rock on Friday was canceled, but the rest of the tour will apparently continue. On Friday, Townshend posted a message on his Web site that read, "We are going on. First show Hollywood Bowl. Pray for us John, wherever you are."

The tour takes in more than 20 venues in various American states including New York, California, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado and Texas before finishing up in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 27.

'Unique and irreplaceable'

While the spotlight focused on Daltrey's microphone spinning, Townshend's guitar windmilling and Moon's cataclysmic drumming, Entwistle stood off to the side, his stolid, nimble-fingered presence anchoring the group.

With Townshend's power chords effectively providing rhythm for the group, Entwistle's intricate bass lines essentially provided the group's melodic lead. On songs ranging from "My Generation" to "The Real Me" to "You Better You Bet," he moved up and down the fretboard, providing bottom and filling the gaps between Townshend's bursts of guitar.

In an interview with The Associated Press, longtime Rolling Stones' bassist Bill Wyman described Entwistle as "the quietest man in private but the loudest man on stage. He was unique and irreplaceable," he said.

"He just was the most humble rock star I have ever met, besides having the best hands of any bass player in the history of rock and roll," rocker Sammy Hagar told the AP.

John Alec Entwistle was born October 9, 1944 -- exactly four years after John Lennon -- in Chiswick, London, England. He played brass instruments in his early years, and was often known to lend a French horn to Who songs.

Entwistle and Townshend were schoolboy friends, but didn't play in a rock band together until Entwistle suggested his old friend to Roger Daltrey, then in a band called the Detours, in 1962. Moon joined the group the next year, and the group renamed itself The Who in 1964.

Songwriting prowess

The group became a key band for Britain's Mod movement, and had its first British hit in 1965 with "I Can't Explain." By the end of the year they'd become a force on the UK scene, with "My Generation" going to No. 2.

The Who
The Who: From left, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon, in the 1970s.  

Entwistle's bass solo on that song took several takes, in large part because he kept breaking bass strings. The trebly strings were difficult to replace, and the story goes that Entwistle had to keep going out to buy new basses because he wasn't allowed to buy the strings separately.

The Who finally broke through in the United States with "Happy Jack," which made the Top 30, and "I Can See for Miles," which hit the Top 10, both in 1967.

The band cemented its U.S. success with 1969's "Tommy" album, and played Woodstock in August of that year. (The group had also played 1967's Monterey Pop Festival, and taped a memorable appearance on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.")

A critic once wrote that Entwistle had the misfortune of being a good songwriter in a band with a great one -- Townshend -- and his contributions to Who albums were only occasional. But Entwistle-penned songs such as "Boris the Spider," "Cousin Kevin," and "My Wife" were standouts on Who albums as well as being concert favorites.

Entwistle released nine albums, solo and with his band Ox. He also formed The John Entwistle Band, while continuing to play with The Who.

The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

'It's just devastating'

Entwistle was also a talented artist. He created the cover for The Who's 1975 "The Who By Numbers" album, and an art exhibition featuring his work at Grammy's Art of Music Gallery was due to open in Las Vegas on Thursday.

The gallery's assistant manager, Diana Tabor, said staff and fans were in a state of shock.

"I'm emotionally distraught just now, it's just devastating. I just had to break the news to a client who broke down in tears," she said.

"The entire Who family is terribly saddened by John's passing. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and the millions of Who fans the world over," said Bill Curbishley, The Who's manager.

Entwistle was married twice and has one son from his first marriage, Christopher.

Outside The Joint in Las Vegas, where the concert was scheduled, fans like Lauren J. Hammer, 35, of Boulder, Colorado, gathered in front of a growing collection of flower bouquets and a large British flag, the AP reported. She held her Colorado license plate that read "WHO R U" and business cards that stated "Who Fan Extraordinaire."

The casino played the band's songs, and the hotel changed its marquee from a concert promotion to a memorial reading, "John Entwistle. 1944-2002. You will be missed by all."



 
 
 
 


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